John Tusa

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Tusa in 2010

Sir John Tusa (born 2 March 1936) is a British arts administrator, and radio and television journalist. He is co-chairman of the European Union Youth Orchestra from 2014. chairman, British Architecture Trust Board, RIBA, from 2014. From 1980 to 1986, he was a main presenter of BBC 2's Newsnight programme. From 1986 to 1993, he was managing director of the BBC World Service. From 1995 to 2007, he was managing director of the City of London's Barbican Arts Centre.

Early life[edit]

Born in Zlín, Czechoslovakia,[1] in March 1936, Tusa moved to England with his family in 1939. His father, also John Tusa (Jan Tůša), was managing director of British Bata Shoes, established by the Czechoslovak shoe company, which, following its international pattern, also created a pioneering work-living community around its factory in East Tilbury, Essex. Two days before the German occupation of Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939, Tusa senior flew out of Czechoslovakia on a Bata company plane, via Poland, Yugoslavia and France. He then became general manager of the Bata factory and its associated village in East Tilbury, living in the nearby village of Horndon-on-the-Hill where his son grew up.[2]

Tusa junior was educated at St Faith's School, Cambridge, Gresham's School, Holt, and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he gained a first class degree in History.[3]


In 1960, Tusa joined the BBC as a trainee. After presenting the BBC's 24 Hours and later Newsnight (from its inception in 1979), he became managing director of the BBC World Service from 1986 to 1993. Tusa was President of Wolfson College, Cambridge from January to October 1993. He was then a newsreader on BBC's One O'Clock News for two years during the mid-1990s. He anchored the BBC's coverage of the D-Day 50th anniversary celebrations in June 1995, and of the Hong Kong handover on 30 June 1997.

From 1995 until 2007, he was managing director of the Barbican Arts Centre in the City of London. For several years, he was chairman of the board of the Wigmore Hall in London and was appointed chairman of the University of the Arts London in 2007. For many years, he sat on the governing Council of Imperial College London on which strength was then offered vice-chancellor positions at Reading and then York University, but decided against accepting them because of his lack of financial expertise.[citation needed] In 1987, he had been rejected for the position of Director-General of the BBC for the same reason. He was announced as having accepted the position of chairman with the Victoria and Albert Museum on 18 June 2007, but stepped down from the post a month later, recognising a conflict of interest with his position at the University of the Arts London. In 2013, it was announced that Tusa would be leaving his post at University of the Arts London from August that year, and that Sir John Sorrell would be the new chairman. From January 2009 to 2014, Tusa was chair of the Clore Leadership Programme. In February 2010 he became honorary chairman of In 2014, he became co-chairman of the European Union Youth Orchestra.

Since leaving his BBC World Service post in 1993, Tusa has been critical of some BBC policies. He deprecated the focus and management style of (former) director general John Birt and has been vociferous about subsequent decisions to pare down World Service activities in Europe, including the Czech section.[4]

From 2000 until 2005, Tusa interviewed 55 major figures in the arts for BBC Radio 3. From October 2009, until the end of the year, Tusa presented a 91-part series on BBC Radio 4. Day By Day used original archive news material to track events on a daily basis from 1989, including the fall of the Berlin Wall.

John Tusa's Engaged with the Arts: Writings from the Frontline was published in 2007.[5] It explores ways that the arts can be encouraged within a cultural and political climate in which funding is constantly under threat. He wrote two books jointly with his historian wife Ann Tusa: The Nuremberg Trial (1983) and The Berlin Blockade (1988).[6] His writings on the arts include Art Matters, On Creativity, and The Janus Aspect: Artists in the C20. Tusa married Ann Hilary Dowson in 1960; she died in November 2021. The couple had two sons.[6]


  • Tusa received an honorary doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 1993[7]
  • Tusa was awarded a knighthood in the Queen's birthday honours list in June 2003.
  • Tusa was awarded an Honorary Silver Medal of Jan Masaryk in September 2018.[8][9]


Co-author – with Ann Tusa:

  • The Nuremberg Trial; Macmillan 1983
  • The Berlin Blockade; Hodder and Stoughton 1988.


  1. ^ Bata (shoe) company history website which includes biographical paragraph on Tusa whose father was a senior Bata employee
  2. ^ Lecture by John Tusa Archived 8 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "John Tusa". BBC News. 29 January 2004.
  4. ^ "Czech Business Weekly". Archived from the original on 25 November 2005. Retrieved 6 March 2006.
  5. ^ Published by I.B. Tauris, London & New York, February 2007. ISBN 978-1-84511-424-4
  6. ^ a b "Ann Tusa obituary". The Times. 23 November 2021. Retrieved 16 April 2022.
  7. ^ "Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh: Honorary Graduates". Archived from the original on 18 April 2016. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  8. ^ "Resumes of recipients of the Silver Medal of Jan Masaryk" (PDF).
  9. ^ "Stříbrná medaile Jana Masaryka".
Media offices
Preceded by
Austen Kark
Director of External Broadcasting, BBC
Succeeded by
Sam Younger
Academic offices
Preceded by President of Wolfson College, Cambridge
January—October 1993
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman of the University of the Arts London
Succeeded by